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What A Life!


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Director Michael Law
Duration 11min 9sec
Release Date 1949
Sponsor Central Office of Information
Synopsis You've never had it so bad?... A tongue in cheek look at postwar austerity
Text version of this film



This Richard Massingham film is a bizarre contribution from the Crown Film Unit, and addresses the challenges Britain faced in the austere post-war era.

Wartime enthusiasm and self-confidence had become seriously eroded by the crisis-laden year of 1947. Domestically, the continuation of rationing, including for the first time bread (between 1946-48) and the fuel and economic crises, together with Indian independence, 1947 was largely a year that dented the immediate post war assurances.

Although the wartime Lend-Lease agreement had enabled Britain to continue its struggle against the Axis Powers alone, it gave the misleading appearance of the nation as a first-rank power. In the immediate post war years it gradually became hard to understand how as a winning power, head of a great empire, second only to USA in influence, became so austere and destitute.

The film has no obvious point beyond, as the British Film Institute pointed out, displaying Massingham's fondness for black humour and parodying along the way that familiar complaint, "the country is going to the dogs!"

In fact this film caused some controversy in Parliament. On 15 February 1949, the Conservative MP for Twickenham, Edward Keeling asked the President of the Board of Trade in the House of Commons:

"Has the Lord President seen this film? Does he know that it shows two men so depressed by the conditions of life the in England today that they try to drown themselves, but make a mess of it? Does he really think that this is the sort of film on which 9,000 of taxpayers' money should be spent?"

From our point of view, we are glad they did.

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